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By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
He would leave Karen in bed at 5:30 a.m., have a quick breakfast, and thumb through the Herald. Then he would drive from Aventura to the Dunkin' Donuts on NE 81st Street and Biscayne Boulevard, where he would buy a small coffee — with a splash of cream and a Sweet'N Low — and a donut. At 6:45 a.m., he'd pull into Take One's parking lot. He'd head to a back room and spend the next five hours or so counting money, making phone calls, and handling other business.
Especially after the armed robbery in 1989, Karen urged Bob to change his routine or hire a morning guard. Nothing if not stubborn, Bob refused. "He converted that bar with his bare hands from the bail bonds place that was there before," she explains. "It was his kingdom. He wasn't going to be pushed around."
In the summer of 2004, massive hurricanes ravaged the Atlantic. Frances and Jeanne, Category three and four storms respectively, would score direct hits on South Florida. It was 7:20 on an eerie, clear morning before the torrents hit — August 26, a Thursday — that Bob was in his office counting when he felt a pistol barrel on his neck.
As the gunman froze Bob, a crony stuffed the cash on the desk — approximately $5,000 — into a bag. The two men barked at each other in what he identified as Creole accents.
After the robbers left him sitting by his ransacked desk, Bob was more angry than afraid. He started carrying a .38 revolver in a belt holster, but refused to alter his routine.
In the darkness of predawn exactly one month later, Bob tooled his car into the parking lot of Take One. Grainy surveillance video would show him unlocking the heavy front door. Three figures hidden in the parking lot rose to their feet and scrambled after him, catching the door just before it closed. Less than two minutes later, the figures sprinted across the parking lot.
After firemen forced the door open, Detective Schillaci found Bob's body lying facedown on the carpeted floor of his club. His watch was gone, but he was still wearing his pinky ring and a necklace with a gold Capricorn medallion. A wad of cash wrapped in rubber bands was left at the scene.
Near Bob's body there was a gun: a .22 semiautomatic, un-fired. The murderers had dropped it during the struggle. Bob's belt holster was empty, and his gun was missing. He had been shot to death with his own .38.
"It was the work of kids," says Schillaci. "It was a very sloppy robbery." It was also, he surmised almost immediately, an inside job.
Schillaci, a short, intense cop with slicked-back hair and a mousy moustache, calls Raley's murder "one of the most haunting cases" he's worked. He was tailed by a television crew from A&E's homicide documentary series The First 48. The investigation's work was interrupted by Hurricane Jeanne, and Schillaci was moved by how well-regarded the owner of the violence-plagued strip club was in the neighborhood. "It's a fine line between a troubled club," says Schillaci, "and its owner who was a good man, a hard-working man who cared only about taking care of his family."
As it happened, the case turned when a fingerprint was discovered on a milk crate in Take One's parking lot, where one of the assailants had sat and waited before the botched armed robbery. Three neighborhood stickup artists were arrested: 26-year-old Jean "Guteau" Mentor, 20-year-old Johnny Mesadieu — who worked at Roasters' n Toasters — and Sylvio "Blue" Louis, a 17-year-old Miami Edison Senior High student.
In interrogation rooms, the three hoods told cops that Marc Placide — the janitor that Bob Raley had hired over protests from other employees — had tipped them to the easy score to be had at Take One. After being read his rights, Schillaci says, Placide confessed to setting up the robbery.
Instead of being tried for murder, Placide agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in return for a lesser charge of accessory after the fact, along with a relatively featherweight sentence of four years in prison. Mesadieu was hit with 25 years in prison for his role in the murder, and Mentor received a life sentence.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Blue, who claimed that he was coerced into going along with the robbery. In 2008, he was charged with a car jacking.
Detective Schillaci considers the turncoat janitor's light sentence a miscarriage of justice — "He was, without a doubt, the worst of the whole crew," he says — and scoffs at Blue's claim of defenselessness. "I watched the video," says Schillaci. "I saw him running away from that scene with the other two. He wasn't coerced."
Karen Raley, meanwhile, has spent this winter attending court hearings, trying to get Placide's early parole denied, while negotiating her own felony charges with prosecutors.
The year 2008 was an especially murderous one for Take One Lounge.
In March, four men left the club near 4:30 on a Saturday morning when a Chevy Impala rolled alongside and littered their car with bullets. Three of the victims were killed. In a twist of ghetto irony, one of those slain — 28-year-old Xaviein Bendross — had been tried for murdering a Dutch tourist at the same intersection 12 years earlier.
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How do you open an envelope "officiously"?I guess that you have to take over a club "officially" before you can open the envelope "officiously"
How does one open an envelope officiously?When you officially take over a club, you open an envelope officiously!
Thanks for putting Take One back on the map. Great story and editorial, I love Take One, the place is the best, love the girls and the atmosphere. I will drink to Take Love in a bit love the place.
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"....cops discovered strippers pleasuring themselves with toys and performing oral sex onstage...."
I love the Miami New Times!
Miami New Times is the hoodrat of Miami newspapers... you guys should cover Centro Español next...
nonetheless... entertaining I must say